The River War Again
|Senior Marine Officer||Earlier Belmont Club Post|
|First "NEW MARKET." As the press is reporting,
we commenced operations a few days ago in the Haditha area -
a critical crossroads from west to east in the
country. At Haditha the MSRs meet and provide high-speed asphalt
North towards Mosul and east towards Baghdad. It is a fair size city, often
referred to by locals as the 'capital of west Al Anbar province (Ramadi
being the provincial capital). Some of you might remember that about 3-4
weeks ago, insurgents took the Haditha hospital and burnt it when Marines
came in and took it from them -- that's the fire footage you keep seeing
(The press forgets that we took that hospital back then; instead, they only
remembered that we lost a few Marines there in the initial ambush - not this
Over the past few months, following our 1stMARDIVs magnificent actions in Fallujah (Operation AL FAJR) we have seen elements of the insurgency scatter along the 'green belt' of the Euphrates. Because of the strategic crossroads aspects, Haditha has been a problem. Following Matador, a lot of good intel had been developed on the insurgent 'underground railroad' moving to key cities. Intel, particularly in the counterinsurgency ops (COIN) as you know drives the operations -- operations develops more Intel - and we get the 'perfect circle' that lets us continue aggressive action...see we did learn from our VN-veteran Marines!! Remember, I started this journey in '73 so all y'all were the guys that taught me how to do this -- I owe ya!
We planned a series of operations in the west -- not unusual - to exploit information gained in previous operations and from some great atmospherics from the local(s) who are, as we are, fed up with terrorists using their villages, recruiting their young, etc...Essentially, each battalion assessed their respective battlespace and, as Marine BNs have done forever, planned operations to close with...
|There are several interesting things about the
battalion sized operation against insurgents in Haditha, Iraq. First,
Haditha is near the place where US forces nearly captured Abu Musab Zarqawi
on February 20 of this year. Readers may recall the details of that story,
in which Zarqawi escaped capture by jumping out of his vehicle and hiding in
US forces just missed arresting Al-Qaeda's frontman in Iraq in a February 20 raid between Hit and Haditha, near the Euphrates river, a statement said. "Zarqawi was able to escape capture as coalition forces closed in on his vehicle. Zarqawi's driver, Abu Usama, was captured during the raid," it said.
Second is location. Haditha is in the middle of the Euphrates river line that has Qusabayah/Qaim on its northern terminus on the Syrian border and Falljah as its southeastern anchor. Haditha is also where a roadline goes northeastwards across the top of Tharthar Lake, the scene of an earlier operation against an insurgent camp, toward the Tigris river line. The third is tempo. Haditha is the second straight operation against the Euphrates river line this month. It is about the same size as Operation Matador. "U.S. military officials said Operation New Market is about the same size a weeklong assault dubbed Operation Matador that began May 7." The Globe and Mail also notes the succession of attacks:
Earlier this month, U.S. forces conducted a weeklong operation in the city of Qaim and other Iraqi towns near the Syrian border aimed at rooting out militants allied to Jordanian-born terrorist mastermind Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and destroying their smuggling routes into Syria. At least 125 militants were killed in that operation, along with nine U.S. Marines, the military said.
The obvious inference, though not necessarily the correct one, is that the Haditha assault is part of a campaign to 'chop up' the Euphrates River line. A convenient place to start the narrative is the second battle of Fallujah in November, 2004, followed by Tharthar Lake in March, 2005, Qusabayah/Qaim in May 2005 and lastly, the current attack on Haditha.
The significance of the Euphrates River line as a line of communication or "conveyor belt" was described in an old Belmont Club post called the River War, now inaccessible due to a fault in Blogger. (I am trying to get it back up by deleting old and useless posts from 2003. Here's hoping.) The Marine officers description of New Market provides basic validation of a theme on this site, which is the strategic spatial shape of the insurgency; it is no longer just pure speculation but has some empirical evidence.
One curious aspect of this war is that it may be the first time in history that two opposing sides have shared the same MSRs (or Main Supply Routes)